Dehydrated Leopard Gecko – Signs, Reasons & Solutions

Leopard geckos are used to living in arid areas with temperatures soaring as high as 100 °F or more. This speaks volumes about the lizard’s adaptability and astounding evolutionary advantages. Leopard geckos are very good at getting much of their necessary water from their food.

dehydrated leopard gecko

They also drink water from plants or wherever they may find it in their environment, but not as much as other reptile species. This being said, even leopard geckos can experience dehydration due to insufficient water. This is exactly what we’ll discuss today.

Dehydration is a life-threatening condition when it comes to geckos due to their physiology and biological functioning. So, let’s get into that!

Signs of Dehydration in Leopard Gecko

Dehydration is gradual, usually encompassing 3 phases: mild, moderate, and severe dehydration. Depending on these phases, your leopard gecko will exhibit a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Skin changes – Your gecko’s skin should be soft, shiny, and elastic. It should fall back into place immediately after pinched and have a healthy and bright look. A dehydrated gecko always exhibits dry skin that stays up when pinched. This suggests that the skin is low in water content. Leopard geckos may also experience skin infections in cases of severe water loss.
  • Physical transformation – The gecko may exhibit sunken eyes due to the water loss and the gecko’s attempt to protect the eyeballs. Geckos also have sunken eyes when sleeping or eating for the same reason, so make sure you don’t confuse things. Physically, dehydrated leopard geckos look weaker and skinnier. You may begin to observe the lizard’s ribs and bones sticking through the skin. This isn’t due to the lizard losing weight, but rather losing skin water, causing the skin to become thinner and the bones to stick out.
  • Behavioral changes – The gecko will become more lethargic, will eat and sleep less, and may attempt to leave its enclosure to look for water. Dehydrated geckos also show difficulty moving and will often fall when attempting to climb various elements.

Also, check your gecko’s mouth. You know your lizard is dehydrated if it has sticky saliva and doesn’t salivate as much overall.

Reasons for Dehydration in Leopard Geckos

But why would your gecko become dehydrated in the first place? There are several potential causes to consider:

  • Not enough drinking water – Despite their adaptability, leopard geckos still need to drink water occasionally. You should always have a water bowl in your gecko’s enclosure for when they need to drink or bathe.
  • Inadequate humidity levels – Given their amazing resilience and adaptation to their natural habitat, leopard geckos don’t need high humidity levels. They are fine with a humidity range between 30% and 40% for the most part. You can even go up to 50% as a stable humidity level, just to be sure. This is enough for leopard geckos.
  • Illness – Some health conditions may cause your gecko to lose water faster. We’re talking primarily about bacterial and parasitic issues that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. These issues will cause rapid water loss, leading to severe dehydration fast.

You should be able to detect the early signs of dehydration in most cases, allowing you to act before the condition aggravates. However, you need to know what you’re looking for. Also, keep in mind that, in some cases, dehydration may progress fast and affect your gecko’s health before you have time to observe the problem.

Severe dehydration is extremely dangerous for reptiles, including leopard geckos. It can cause organ failure and death before you have the chance of diagnosing your lizard’s condition properly.

Treating Dehydrated Leopard Gecko

The treatment for dehydration depends on the condition’s severity, which may not be as easy to assess as you think. Overall, here’s what you can do, depending on how bad the situation is:

  • Mild dehydration – At this point, the gecko only has a sticky mouth, lacks saliva, and appears uncomfortable. You may see it patrolling its habitat nervously, looking for something; that would be water. In this case, introducing a water bowl to its enclosure should fix the issue immediately. Just make sure you place the water bowl in the gecko’s immediate vicinity so that it can find it easily.
  • Moderate dehydration – Your gecko should never reach this point, to begin with. But, sometimes, in happens, especially if you leave home without filling up the lizard’s bowl before going. At this stage, the gecko may have sunken eyes and exhibit lethargy and poor appetite. You should take the gecko and soak it in lukewarm water for several minutes at a time. Force it to drink some water if it doesn’t do that on its own. Also, verify and increase environmental humidity if necessary.
  • Severe dehydration – At this point, the gecko may showcase visible ribs pointing out through the skin, difficulty moving, and display an overall poor state. If you think that these symptoms are indicative of dehydration, contact your vet immediately. The professional may need to consider intravenous rehydration, among other treatment methods.

Two things I’d like to specify at this point:

  1. Make sure you diagnose your reptile’s condition properly – You don’t want to treat your lizard for dehydration if that’s not the underlying problem.
  2. Always monitor environmental humidity – It’s unlikely that leopard geckos will ever become dehydrated if humidity levels are within the ideal parameters. This species still requires drinking water, but having ideal humidity levels at all times will reduce the risk of dehydration drastically. Worst-case scenario: you will detect the problem when your lizard is only mildly dehydrated.

As a pro tip – try soaking your reptile’s insects in water before mealtime. Also, adding some worms as treats once per month wouldn’t hurt either. These larvae are usually filled with water.

How Much Water Do Leopard Geckos Need?

Not much. Keep the reptile’s water bowl half-filled with clean water, spray its habitat twice per day, and it should be enough. If your gecko appears to drink more water than you expect, adapt to the situation accordingly.

Also, get a reliable hygrometer. It will help you monitor your gecko’s environmental humidity more accurately so you know where you stand.


Leopard geckos are highly resilient and adaptable, but they are still prone to all of the health issues that plague reptiles in general; dehydration is one of them. Fortunately, you know now how to diagnose and address dehydration before it goes past the point of no return.

avatar William
William is a respected pet enthusiast with expertise in reptiles and birds. With extensive experience caring for these animals, he shares his knowledge through engaging and informative articles in various publications. He is an active member of pet-related organizations, volunteering regularly at shelters and promoting animal welfare and conservation. read more...

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